Why Stevan Ridley is Playoff Poison for Fantasy Football Owners

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 26, 2013

Oct 13, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) stiff arms New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Saints 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of words that can be used to describe the running back position in fantasy football this year. Of course, most of those words can't be printed here.

In a season where busts and injured studs litter the fantasy landscape at running back, there's one more wrapper by the side of the road as the playoffs draw near.

Simply put, if you were counting on New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley to be a major contributor during the fantasy postseason, then it's time to start plotting out Plan B—because it's not happening.

Granted, Ridley disappointing fantasy owners in 2013 isn't exactly news.

Stevan Ridley 2012-2013
Total Yards/GameTD/GameFP/Game*
*Standard-Scoring Leagues

After topping 1,200 rushing yards, scoring 12 touchdowns and finishing the year as a top-10 running back in non-PPR fantasy football leagues in 2012, Ridley was drafted with the hopes of solid RB2 production in 2013.

So far this season, Ridley hasn't met those expectations. The third-year pro is on a pace that would leave him short of 1,000 yards on the ground. After topping 100 yards in four games a year ago, Ridley has reached that plateau all of once in 2013.

Ridley's seven touchdowns this season have kept him inside the top 20 among fantasy running backs, but there have been more weekly misses than hits this year.

Heading into the team's Week 10 bye, it looked like Ridley was set for a late push that could salvage his season. Over a four-week stretch from Week 6 to Week 9, Ridley averaged 85 rushing yards and 1.5 touchdowns a game. Ridley was a top-five running back over that span.

Then it happened...again.

In each of the two games since New England's bye, Ridley has failed to top 50 yards on the ground. More importantly, Ridley also lost a fumble in each of those games.

That brings Ridley to a league-leading (among RBs) four lost fumbles on the season. Since the final game of the 2011 season, Ridley has now turned it over an eye-popping seven times on the ground.

The last one got Ridley benched after only four carries against the Denver Broncos, although offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels later offered a half-hearted endorsement of the 24-year-old, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN:

It's that last part that's important. Head coach Bill Belichick would bench his own mother if she couldn't hang onto the ball.

In fact, he did in 2009. What an awkward Thanksgiving that was. It was just a backyard game, Bill. Damn.

Ridley may be the most talented runner on New England's roster, but not only does Belichick have a quick hook where fumbling is concerned (LeGarrette Blount joined Ridley in the doghouse Sunday night after losing a fumble of his own), but generally speaking, once you're in time out, you're staying there—at least for the rest of that game.

The Pats are deep in the backfield, which allows Belichick to hold a grudge.

On top of the fact that Ridley loses passing-down work to Shane Vereen, his butterfingers have cast a pall over every fantasy start. He's not scoring fantasy points sitting on the bench while Belichick stares a hole in him with the hoodie stinkeye.

But wait, it gets better!

New England Patriots Schedule
OpponentRun Def. RankRank vs. RB*
13at HOU22nd18th
15at MIA26th26th
16at BAL11th3rd
Fantasy points allowed to RB per ESPN

Over the last four weeks of the fantasy football season, the Patriots have only one truly favorable matchup for running backs: at Miami in Week 15. The Week 16 (when most fantasy leagues have their championship) matchup with the Baltimore Ravens is brutal.

So fantasy owners who start Ridley in the playoffs are hoping that not only can he hang onto the ball and stay on the field, but he'll also be able to thrive over a stretch of bad matchups.

Maybe one of those things come to pass. Both? Not likely. It's much more probable that fantasy owners who elect to ignore the evidence and start Stevan Ridley in the fantasy playoffs are going to end up like this guy.

And no one wants to end up like that guy.